Jon Bon Jovi celebrated his successes as he looked back on his career, but also his failures – including the “terrible” performance he delivered the first time his parents went to see him play.
The singer also reflected on what he regarded as his “biggest mistake” in an interview for the Big Issue’s Letter to My Younger Self series.
“The first talent show my parents came to see me play I was so terrible they wanted to crawl under their seats with embarrassment,” Bon Jovi said. “But they saw my passion and my commitment. So when I was just 17 they let me play in bars till closing time and they always said, ‘Well, at least we knew where you were.’ … I could get home at one or two in the morning, and have to still be in school by eight o’clock. They just said, ‘Show up on time for school; you know that is your responsibility… but pursue your dream.”
He added that they knew that he wasn’t going to bars to “fuck around” but to “do the job,” and demonstrated the result of their support: “By the time I was 20 I had written ‘Runaway’ and it was on the radio and by the time I was 21 I had a record deal. So there wasn’t the need for my parents to have a sit down with their 35-year-old son who was still playing in a bar in Santa Barbara saying, ‘I’m gonna make it.’
Bon Jovi insisted that “[t]here was no plan B for me ever” because of the attitude they helped instill. “What I got from my parents was the ability to make the dream reality,” he said. “[E]ven if you truly weren’t any good at your craft, if you believed you were, you could work on it. As I got older I realized that was a great gift that I got from my folks. They truly believed in the John Kennedy mantra of going to the moon. ‘Yeah, of course you can go to the moon. Just go, Johnny.’ And there I went.”
He admitted that he’d been through “deeply dark” and “deeply hurtful” experiences, but argued that they were “part of life,” adding: “I wish it was all pretty, but maybe if it was all pretty I wouldn’t have gotten this wisdom or this deep appreciation for who and what I am today.”
He added: “The biggest mistake I made in my life is that I didn’t take enough time to stop and look around and enjoy it. I was always so focused on the next step, then the next and the next, that it cost me a lot of great memories. And it caused a lot of sleepless nights that weren’t warranted. It’s my biggest regret. The one thing I would tell the younger self is, ‘Enjoy it more, relax. It’s gonna have ups and downs but keep the faith.’”